Welcome to DeepSkies!

I am Rick Towns, an amateur astronomer who lives in Canada. I enjoy observing with my telescopes, using my microscope to peek in on a hidden world, and enjoy practising Buddhism. I have a new website: ricktowns.com, where most of my personal pages are now located. This site will be dedicated entirely to astronomy, and specifically to the Deep Sky Atlas I have been working on.

Deep Sky Atlas

Several years ago I became interested in programming astronomy software and learning how to convert an object’s coordinates (right ascension and declination) to the x/y coordinates on a computer screen. It took a long time, but thanks to some help from others (Philippe Deverchère, Patrick Chevalley, and Chris Marriott) and using the book Astronomical Algorithms by Jean Meeus I was able to make it happen!

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Observing Targets

Many astronomers have favourite books that catalog all manner of interesting objects in the sky. For me, it is certainly Burnham’s Celestial Handbook. I have others I like as well (Norton’s, Turn Left At Orion, Cosmic Challenge – to name a few), but what I really like is a definitive list of objects to look at in the sky. I have started that – building a list of targets in each constellation which I (and you!) can use while observing.

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Messier Marathon

Usually twice a year (once in Spring and once in Fall) you have the opportunity to view all 110 of Charles Messier’s objects in one night of viewing. It takes quite a bit of preparation and even some practice – but it can be done! I have put together a quick and easy-to-follow guide that will hopefully help you in accomplishing this gold standard endeavour of amateur astronomy.

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Astronomy Code

Are you interested in writing your own astronomy software? The biggest hurdle is to convert the celestial coordinates of sky objects (like stars, planets, galaxies, etc) into the x/y screen coordinates that your computer understands. Here’s a code snippet calling such a function:

void somefunction() {

    COORDS skyCoords;
    /* convert coordinates for star Deneb in constellation Cygnus */
    skyCoords = eqConvert(310.3579167, 45.28027778);

    /* now turn on the pixel! */
    SetPixel(hDc, skyCoords.x, skyCoords.y, RGB(255, 255, 255));
    /* etc... */

You can write the code behind that snippet and perhaps build the next super astronomy app!

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